Four years ago, a recent transplant to the Bay Area, I am standing atop the Marin Headlands, gazing across the expanse of San Francisco Bay. By swiveling a little, I can see--right there--the vast Pacific.
Bay and ocean. The two seem part and parcel.
That’s how I grew up thinking of the Bay: as a snag in the California coastline, a finger of the Pacific reaching up under the Golden Gate. But when I started work at The Bay Institute, I learned that’s just half the story.
Fast forward a year. I am some 400 miles “upstream” from the Bay, visiting Mount Shasta. In a park on the edge of town, a sweet little stream springs out of the rocks. It’s tempting to take off my shoes and go wading, but it seems almost sacrilege. This relatively humble beginning, after all, is considered the headwaters of the mighty Sacramento, the largest river in California.
I settle instead for dipping my fingers. That touch sends a thrill through me, and it’s not just the shock of the cold water. It is the strange realization that, in a way, I am touching the Bay.